Friday, October 06, 2006

Crime and drugs

In Harrisburg our representatives are tossing around ideas to deal with crime. The ideas range from locking more people up and adding cops on the beat to treating the causes of violent crime.
I don't know anybody who wouldn't like more police in their towns. But the devil is in the details. How do you pay for it?

John Yudichak, who has served as a state representative for eight years, said he's seen this type of session held only one other time - to address property tax reform.

One proposal that got a majority vote would add 10,000 new police officers across the state, with the stipulation that counties would have to chip in toward the cost. It would be the first time that counties would provide ongoing funding for municipal police, the state said.
Counties would apply for grants and pay a 30 percent match, while the municipality would kick in 20 percent. Priority would go to high-crime municipalities or rural municipalities with fewer than 10 police officers.

10,000 new cops sounds great but a 50% match is not realistic. Where is Luzerne County going to come up with money to fund this program when the commissioners have to borrow money every year just to meet payroll? What happens is the program expires and towns and counties are faced with the choice of balancing the budget or laying off policemen. Historically police protection has been a shared responsibility of state and municipal governments, don't add another layer of bureaucracy.

Also approved were proposals to create a new state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and to allocate $5 million in state general funds dollars to address emergency waiting lists for residential addiction treatment.

Luzerne County never has enough money to cover treatment demands, which means some poor or uninsured residents must try to obtain scholarships from providers or wait until treatment funding is available, said Mike Donahue, the county's drug and alcohol director.

The risk: The addicts sometimes change their mind when they're put on hold.
Battling drug addiction is the key to putting a dent in crime, said state Rep.
Todd Eachus, D-Hazleton.

Government funding to treat drug and alcohol abuse continues to shrink, while many employers have eliminated treatment for drug and alcohol addiction and mental-health illnesses from their insurance plans - a problem he's tackling as a member of the House insurance committee.

It's tough nut to crack but locking up people hasn't worked.

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